Check out the latest project from PEEL Magazine and Discordia Merchandising: The Bootleg Posse Project – a tribute to the original Andre the Giant has a Posse sticker that I created in 1989. Visit their Kickstarter!
Within three months of the OG Andre sticker’s debut in the summer of ’89, reinterpreted bootlegs of the sticker began popping up in Providence and it drove home the idea that my effort, a total goof at the time, had impacted some people.
All the things that inspired me over the years, from punk rock to skateboarding to random pop–culture quirkiness, had filtered into my output; now that I was feeding that cycle with my own work, it made me that much more motivated to put work out in the public space, because I felt it was actually a productive application of artistic effort that anyone could observe and absorb. I began to see the Andre sticker campaign’s potential for exponential growth, because from my own experience, I knew that whenever I learned that something I thought was totally original was actually a reference to something else, I would immediately become curious and highly aware of the original source. Essentially, the OG Andre bootlegs were putting my stickers into many people’s cultural frame of reference maybe before those people even saw one of my stickers.
Because culture exists on so many different levels, references to culture can appeal to audiences as broad as the whole world or as narrow as the clique that spans all of two blocks. I originally came up with the “posse” line as a joke about associating with something new and cool (hip-hop slang), and it seems like much of the appeal of ripping off the phrase is its declaration of a community centered on a reference point. By using my template, the bootleggers make my work a secondary reference point, so in a sense they’re becoming part of my community and I’m becoming part of theirs. The template also provides a stylistic context with several implicit themes — DIY ethic, fabricated iconography, absurd humor — all of which, to me, are validated by the fact that these bootleggers, or tribute makers, or parodists, get my message and want to perpetuate it in their own way. OG Andre bootlegs are memes from when memes lived outside the digital realm and had a bit of mischief and mystery.